A young woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets, desires, and dreams. Romance and passion swirl around inside of her like light puffy clouds drifting lazily across a summer sky. In her quest for a knight in shining armor, what becomes of a young woman who falls into the arms and the bed of a man who looks and acts like a knight but is in reality a joker? For a young woman who is free spirited but a little naïve, mistaking a joker for a knight can be dangerous and perhaps lethal if she does not heed the warning signs along the way.
Fort Riley was well known to anyone who had grown up in northeast Kansas. The wild and untamed nature of the region was deeply rooted in the soil, as well as in the hearts of young women, and its very essence would cause the two elements to collide again and again for years to come. Fort Riley was not a temptation reserved only for those women whose hand bore no band of gold, however. It was not a well kept secret that married women whose husbands had been sent “over there” found comfort in the bed of a man who had remained to protect the home front. The outcomes of war with its horrors and time spent apart were not the fault of either husband or wife. It was what it was, and it would be repeated again and again.
Ellie imagined herself as one of the free love children of the era, with flowers in her hair and the freedom to have sex without commitment. The birth control pill had just been invented and with its high levels of estrogen, the young women were erotic time bombs just waiting to explode. Ellie would have hitchhiked to the West Coast and hooked up with one of the aspiring musicians of the time. He would have taken her to his “pad”, a makeshift apartment in the back part of a house. As the sun set over the city, he would have laid her down, and Ellie would have quickly become the seducer. In the morning he would have begged her to stay, but Ellie would have kissed him sweetly and promised to return. In the spirit of free love of the time, however, both would have known that once gone she would be gone forever. Ellie and her lover would have understood each other. It would have been “groovy.”
When the wounded from the war in Vietnam returned with their limbs blown off and their minds blown out, the United States would be changed forever. The country’s involvement in the gruesome bloody swamps of Vietnam left an indelible and ugly mark on Fort Riley. The gilded age with its lavish displays of showmanship and unwavering respect for the soldiers was over, and in its stead was a new feeling for, and a new perception of, those who now chose to serve in the armed forces. The protests of a generation could not be ignored, and the draft was abolished. Subsequently, the soldiers now stationed at Fort Riley were a more unsavory lot than the fine specimens who generations before them had left the family farm to fight what they knew to be a worthy fight. Over the following decades, it was not uncommon for a wayward youth to be given the choice between prison and the army. What was once looked upon as an honorable institution slowly but surely took on the form or at least the perception of a prison, and with it a mishmash of elements collided to create some type of hybrid soldier.
However, in the eyes of the young women of the region, Fort Riley remained as it always had been; a temptation that few could resist. Without the threat of boyfriends or husbands being plucked by some form of lottery system to be thrust into harm’s path, the young women who were eager to experience life far removed from their small rural towns found the soldiers stationed at Fort Riley as attractive as did the generations of women before them. Ellie was one such young woman, and this is her story.